What are the benefits of police oversight?


Police oversight can benefit not only the individual complainant, but also the larger community, police and sheriff’s departments, and even elected or appointed officials.   The actual benefits that occur depend on how well the involved groups work together and the type of model implemented. Some potential benefits are:

  1. Complainants are given a place to voice concerns outside of the law enforcement agency.
  2. Oversight can help hold the police or sheriff’s department accountable for officer’s actions.
  3. Oversight agencies can help improve the quality of the department’s internal investigations of alleged misconduct.
  4. The community at large can be reassured that discipline is being imposed when appropriate, while also increasing the transparency of the disciplinary process.
  5. When the oversight agency confirms a complainant’s allegation(s), complainants may feel validated.
  6. And similarly, when the oversight agency exonerates the officer, the officer may feel vindicated.
  7. Oversight agencies can help improve community relations by fostering communication between the community and police agency.
  8. Oversight agencies can help reduce public concern about high profile incidents.
  9. Oversight agencies can help increase the public’s understanding of law enforcement policies and procedures.
  10. Oversight agencies can improve department policies and procedures. Policy recommendations can prevent issues by identifying areas of concern and subsequently offering options to improve policing.
  11. Oversight agencies can assist a jurisdiction in liability management and reduce the likelihood of costly litigation by identifying problems and proposing corrective measures before a lawsuit is filed. 
  12. Mediation has multiple benefits to both citizens and police officers. If the oversight agency provides mediated solutions, it can help complainants feel satisfied through being able to express their concerns to the specific police officer in a neutral environment.  Mediation can also help police officers better understand how their words, behaviors and attitudes can unknowingly affect public perceptions.
  13. By establishing an oversight system, public officials are provided the opportunity to demonstrate their desire for increased police accountability and the need to eliminate misconduct.

All of these potential benefits help to support the goals of community-oriented policing, which seeks to utilize problem solving techniques to work in a cooperative effort with the community to proactively address concerns.